Cross on the Rock

Cross on the Rock is the name of the local cyclocross series here on Vancouver Island.  It's put on my two of my best buds (Norm & Wendy), and they have done an amazing job of pretty much personally accounting for the explosion of 'cross here.  They put on the island's first 'cross race in 2004 (I think there were about 15 of us, all friends in a single heat), and since then Wendy has been the women's elite National Champion several times, Norm's been the masters National Champion at least twice, the island now has a whole series, has hosted Provincial and National Championships, and races get hundreds of people out in several different categories, from kids to masters to elites.

Despite all this awesomeness, I hardly ever take part.  It seems I dabble in a race or two every couple of years, and haven't done one since 2011.  Until the other day.  Why I'm not a regular, I'm not sure... maybe because the races are short, fast, and pretty dang technical for 'cross courses - pretty much everything I'm bad at!  But I've decided those are actually all reasons I should get back into it, so signed up for the beginner race last Sunday at Shawnigan Lake.

I definitely had it easy in terms of what the course could have been, yep there were some technical sections that really would have been more fun on my mountain bike, but overall the course was pretty forgiving in that it wasn't that tight and turn-y, the sand section was pretty minuscule, the mud was at a minimum (possibly because of a pretty dry October and November for the PNW, especially this past week), and the climbs were not too intimidating.  So yay for me - not too punishing!

Took my Garmin around for a practice loop. A bit more open
and wide than other courses, around some playing fields
at the island's most prestigious private school.

My biggest problem with cyclocross is I just don't know how to do that high-end, red line kind of effort.  Races are 30-60 minutes depending on your category, and honestly I'd rather ride for 4 hours than for 30 minutes because I know how to pace that!  I'm pretty sure that Sunday I rode my 4 hour pace, despite my race being all of 33 minutes (3 loops of the above course).  I need to learn how to go harder!  
Before the start.

I'm so lucky it had been dry or the grass sections
would have been a mud fest. 
Coming around after the woods
on an open part next to a rugby field.

Post race.  Not too muddy.

I ended up finishing 10th out of 16 women in the beginner category.  Got schooled by a few kids that appeared to be less than 12 years old!  It's so inspiring to see kids taking these races seriously - show up at a Cross on the Rock event and no lie, you will see kids in skinsuits with expensive race bikes and sponsors - how awesome is that!

I had a great time, not only in my race but then watching the other categories for the rest of the afternoon.  I am hooked, and told Jason that next year I am in for more races, and will try to do most of the series.  Maybe even a race or two in Seattle and/or Portland.  Next year it will be some 'cross on and off the rock for me!

Offseason Is Over

Well, it's time.  It's time to "officially in an unofficial way" start training again.  For the last couple of months - pretty much since Leadman 125 - I've just been goofing around, doing what I want, when I want and basically staying active.   But even though the cold, dark winter has arrived, it's time for the off season to be over.

I don't really know what to call this season... if anything.  Maybe I'll call it "winter".  Now that's original!  So my winter training is pretty simple and consistent, and for the next few months will look pretty much like:

  • Monday: swim & run
  • Tuesday: trainer & weights
  • Wednesday: swim & run
  • Thursday: trainer & weights
  • Friday: yoga
  • Saturday: swim & ride & weights
  • Sunday: run

Then somewhere around February, it will turn into real training, which I am not sure what exactly that will look like yet.  I've got some time to figure that out!  The best thing I learned over this past year is to be consistent, so for 2014 that will be the plan.  Consistent consistency.

No Knee Surgery For Me!

I have been battling knee problems all year.  Basically, the more I run, the more inflamed and sore my knee gets.  I went for an MRI locally in August, and rather than a visit right away with a local surgeon, I chose to wait for a referral with one of the best orthopaedic surgeons in Victoria - what's a few months and a 40-min drive anyway?

I live in a small city, which is served by a "mobile" MRI unit.
Very cool in that there is virtually no wait once you've
been referred.  Unlike the larger hospitals.

Yesterday I got in to see the surgeon, who incidentally is also a triathlete.  The good news is that I'm not a candidate for knee surgery - which I am happy about as I really didn't want to do that (unless it was guaranteed that I'd never have trouble again, yeah right).  The bad news is that the damage is mostly from injuries I'd sustained in my youth, they're not entirely fixable, and the more running I do, the more I will continue to damage my knee.  Yeesh.

Rather than surgery, he wants to try platelet-rich-plasma (PRP) injections.  They are showing a lot of promise in improving joint degradation, specifically related to arthritis which my knee now has a lot of for someone so young.  Yep, the surgeon said someone so young... yeah!  The bummer is they are not covered by health care and are $450 a pop.  I'll definitely be calling my extended health insurance to see if they cover the injections, although it's unlikely.  We're going to start with one in the spring and see about maybe another if there's any improvement.

Not taken with a filter, it was just that grey
of a day yesterday.  November on the west coast.

However... I did get the green light to keep running.  I am not supposed to run very much - we kind of agreed on around 3x/week, runs less than an hour (I'll probably add 1-2x/week water running once I get closer to race season), but with approval to gut it out if I want to do the occasional longer races on that minimal run training.  So I will continue to be the world's-worst runner in triathlon, but I don't have to give it up all together.  The surgeon said I will know at some point, possibly years down the road or possibly sooner, when it's time for me to stop running all together.  His suggestion (music to my ears as it's what I like anyway) is to maximize my swim and cycling training.  Yeah!

I'll be focusing on reducing impact by doing my runs mainly on trails.  I may even try out a pair of Hokas to see what they're like.  But honestly I don't mind this new plan (that I've basically been doing since the summer anyway) of running shorter... I'm going to work on my form and intensity, but don't need to kill myself on 2+ hour runs.  I will still do the odd half iron distance race (something tells me my run splits won't be any worse for the wear) and I would still like to do one more Ironman at some point.

In the spirit of maximizing my swim and bike, and not to mention my love of California wines and road tripping with friends, this morning I signed up for the Full Vineman Aquabike in July.  Yep, an Ironman distance swim and bike (4km & 180km) with no marathon afterwards!  When I told my friend Candace about that race, she said, "Yeah!  You're still in a good mood after the bike!"

At this point my race plans for next year involve a lot of local sprint races, the Vineman Aquabike, possibly the Bend 125 or 250, and possibly a November half ironman.  We are hoping to get another puppy this spring, so that means a year of lots of puppy training and walks in the woods!